Researchers startled by Viagra weight loss finding

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Viagra turns white fat to brown and makes white fat healthier.
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Researchers have a startling discovery about Viagra that might someday help fight obesity. According to a study from German scientists, Viagra seems to have benefits that go beyond treating erectile dysfunction and could lead to weight loss drugs.

Mice that were given the drug for a week lost weight. When the scientists looked into how it happened, they found the erectile dysfunction drug turns white fat into brown fat. The researchers explain they noted the effect some time ago, leading them to continue to study how it happens in hopes of finding a way to help obese humans.

Sildenafil, which is popularly known as Viagra, inhibits an enzyme that facilitates blood flow to the penis. The drug works by interfering with what’s known as the cGMP pathway that allows for activation of nitric oxide. The result is widening of the blood vessels and improved blood flow that facilitates erection.

But cGMP also seems to have another beneficial effect. It also converts unhealthy white fat into brown fat that can aid weight loss.

Prof. Dr. Alexander Pfeifer, Director of the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Bonn explains researchers have been interested on the effect of Viagra on fat cells for a while, leading them to pursue how it might facilitate weight loss.

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For their study, researchers gave mice Viagra for seven days. The discovered the drug had an ‘amazing’ ability to convert white fat into healthy brown fat. In essence, sildenafil ‘melted’ away fat in what the researchers describe as ‘problem areas’ – or in other words the equivalent of a guy’s ‘love handles’.

White fat is plumper than beige or brown fat and is known to promote inflammation that can lead to disease. Viagra converted white fat to brown fat which is also less inflammatory. The drug also lowered inflammation in white fat cells, making obese mice metabolically healthier.

But the researchers warn Viagra isn’t ready for use as a weight loss drug until more studies are done to understand how the drug flips a switch to turn white fat into good brown fat and make white fat cells healthier.

The hope is that the discovery could someday lead to ways to help humans gets rid of white fat to treat obesity and prevent complications like heart disease and diabetes. The researchers say Viagra or other drugs that convert bad fat to good fat are still a long way off.

Source:
University of Bonn
1/11/2012

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